How being ill surprisingly boosted my productivity

How I managed to do my work while also resting and recovering.

I don’t get ill often, which is also why when I do get ill, I feel like I don’t know what to do. A couple of weeks ago, I caught a cold, and it wasn’t pretty. While I was sneezing and coughing and my body didn’t want to get out of bed, my mind was still going.

“We need to do that analysis,” my mind would say. Or, “I really wanted to finish writing that paper!” Or, my favorite, “But we have that meeting, how could I possibly miss it?!”

But, perhaps most importantly, I felt it was unfair to expose other people to my germs. That feeling of responsibility kept me away from work and at home. I think that was a good thing because my husband, who came into extensive contact with my germs, got ill with the same symptoms 3 days later.

(Of course, in his case it was much worse because he had the mancold. At the worst point of the coughing and fatigue, he announced that he was on his death bed. After a “fever” of 37.8 degrees Celsius, he was convinced he had pneumonia. I shook my head and made him ginger tea. One of the best things about marriage is that you can be ill together.)

Fortunately for me, I can easily do my work from my laptop at home, so I just stayed put for 5 days. I slept as much as I could (didn’t use an alarm to wake up and took a nap during the day), drank tea, ate good food, and stayed warm.

I went for short walks at first and, as I felt a bit better, the walks got slightly longer. I didn’t strength train for a whole week, which was very difficult to accept but highly necessary.

To be honest, my work went surprisingly well during that time. Staying at home forced me to focus on the important tasks and disregard distractions. One evening, I was so tired that I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 4 am, fresh and energized. I seized the opportunity and worked on my paper for several hours straight. I managed to edit the manuscript until I was satisfied with it, and I sent it to my supervisor. Then, with a feeling of great achievement, I went back to sleep.

I also had a lot of quiet time for reading papers, which informed my ideas for a new project. I needed to think about how to design my next experiment, which is a huge step and a very important one. I wanted to come up with a sound experimental design because otherwise my whole experiment would be flawed. By the end of my home stay, I had a cool idea for my new experiment, which I am now refining and will hopefully implement soon.

In the end, I was surprised by how productive this period of illness was for me. The physical sickness constrained me to staying at home, which in turn made me focus on the big, difficult tasks I would have tried to postpone had I been in the office by going to meetings, talks, other people’s projects, etc.

It was also very helpful that I actually gave myself time to recover. When I needed to sleep, I slept. When I was exhausted and needed to do something chill like reading a paper, I did that. I really gave myself the time to rest and didn’t push myself to go to the office when I was feeling ill.

After all, this cold didn’t turn out to be too bad work-wise. But I’m glad it’s over, and I hope I won’t be constrained to working from home again soon. Being in the office and seeing people (and talking to them) is so much more fun!

What do you do when you’re ill? How do you cope? Do you go to work, do you work from home, or do you drop everything and lie in bed? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

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